Antigenic diversity in the African trypanosomes Trypanosoma congolense and Trypanosoma vivax

Antigenic diversity in the African trypanosomes Trypanosoma congolense and Trypanosoma vivax

Blog entry authored by Sara Silva Pereira, PhD student University of Liverpool.

Trypanosomes are extracellular blood parasites, transmitted by the bite of tsetse flies and cause nagana, a wasting disease severely compromising both animal health and livestock productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nagana remains a challenge mainly due to the process of antigenic variation, employed by the para-site for immune evasion.

Blood sampling

I came to Busia to conduct a longitudinal experiment on natural cattle infections of T. congolense to better understand the process of antigenic switching. With the help of a local veterinary surgeon, we screened cattle across for trypanosomes using thin blood smears and high centrifugation technique and followed the infection in positive animals for a month, after which the animals were treated.

The collected materials will be subject to DNA and RNA sequencing and Mass Spectometry to characterise the genetic repertoire of the parasites and the antigens expressed over time.

Tracking the movements of people and their livestock

Tracking the movements of people and their livestock

cattle-with-trackersAs zoonotic diseases can be transported across landscapes by hosts, understanding the complexities of host-mediated pathogen movement is a priority for zoonotic disease research.  For my research, I   have been using surveys and GPS trackers to gather data on the movement patterns of people and their livestock. We will be looking at the differences in movement patterns between the wet and dry seasons: the first part of the study took place in July and we anticipate completion in November 2016.

At each selected household, we interview the adults present and ask them questions about places they regularly go to, how they get there and how long they stay. We also ask questions about places they go to less regularly and their activities involving livestock kept by the household. At the end of the interview, we ask the adult who spends the most time looking after the livestock (if they have any) to wear a GPS tracker on a lanyard around their neck for one week which stores their location once a minute. At the same time, if they keep cattle, goats or sheep then one of these animals (usually a cow) is fitted with an identical device attached to a collar. If the household does not keep any livestock, one person is still asked to wear a tracker, so that we can detect differences in movement patterns between people who do keep livestock and those who don’t. Once the week is up, we return to the household to collect the devices and download the data. The devices are set to record their location once a minute, and the batteries can last up to 10 days.

Nearly all of the people we interviewed have been willing to wear a tracker and all of the trackers given out have been returned without problems. We look forward to sharing some results from this study in the next newsletter! Floyd Jess

Article authored by Jessica Floyd, PhD student, University of Southampton, UK.

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